Dreams and Success in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
In Arthur Miller's play, Death of a Salesman, Miller probes the dream of Willy Lowman while making a statement about the dreams of American society. This essay will explore how each character of the play contributes to Willy's dream, success, and failure.
Willy is the aging salesman whose imagination is much larger than his sales ability. Willy's wife, Linda, stands by her husband even in his absence of realism. Biff and Happy follow in their father's fallacy of life. Willy's brother, Ben is the only member of the Loman family with the clear vision necessary to succeed. Charlie and his son Benard, on the other hand, enjoy better success in life compared to the Lomans.
Miller has written an ambiguous play - unwilling to commit himself to a firm position with respect to tawdry business ethic and the ?industrialized? American dream. Miller alludes to an earlier version of the American dream - escape to the West and the farm, but he then denies us the fulfillment of our expectations. The play makes no judgment on America, although Miller seems always on the verge of one. But Willy is not a tragic hero; he is a foolish and ineffectual man for whom we feel pity. We cannot equate Willy?s failure to realize his dream with the failure of the American dream. Indeed, there is a lot of room for failure as well as great success in America. The system is not the one to blame. Willy can only blame himself for not becoming what he wanted to be.
The next character, Willy Loman's wife Linda, is not part of the solution but rather part of the problem with this dysfunctional family and their inability to see things for what they really are. Louis Gordon is in agreement stating, "Linda, as the eternal wife and mother, the fixed point of affection both given and received, the woman who suffers and endures, is in many ways, the earth mother who embodies the play's ultimate moral value, love. But in the beautiful, ironic complexity of her creation, she is also Willy's and their sons' destroyer. In her love Linda has accepted Willy's Greatness and his dream, but while in her admiration for Willy her love is powerful and moving, in her admiration for his dreams, it is lethal. She encourages Willy's dream, yet she will not let him leave her for the New Continent, the only realm where the dream can be fulfilled. She want to reconcile father and son, but she attempts this in the context of Willy's false values. She cannot allow her sons to achieve that selfhood that involves denial of these values" (Gordon p. 316). Linda is also caught up in Willy's lies and therefore does nothing but help fuel the fire in the inferno of their dreams and ambitions. She lets this whole masquerade continue right in front of her instead of doing something to stop their out of control lies.
Also, Biff the oldest son, continues to search for his purpose in life. Due mainly to all the "hot air"...